Where does fear come from?

We are born into this world defenseless and vulnerable. The moment we are born, and some believe, even before we are born, we are exposed to the forces of this world. We cannot feed ourselves, we cannot protect ourselves, and we are at the mercy of our caregivers whoever they should be. As we develop we learn, and our knowledge base is expanded, when we cry, we may be fed, changed or cuddled. Alternatively, we may be criticized, ignored, abused or abandoned. By our exposure to the world we begin to unconsciously develop a perception of the world based on our experiences.

If, as in the first instance we are supported and cared for we may perceive the world as a place we can trust. If we have elements of the second type our beliefs about the world may be that it is a place that is not trustworthy and that we have much to fear. In the early phase of our lives, our wants are basic. How these wants are met combined with our innate characteristic set us up for the rest of our lives. Our basic need when we are young is to be nurtured, that is, loved and cared for.

Now, here’s the most important message on my site.
We all want to be loved and cared for; this does not change when we become adults. The difficulty arises when we wish to be loved and cared for, and we do not get either loving or caring in our lives. If we get rejected, abandoned or abused, the antithesis to being loved and cared for, we feel pain, emotional, mental, physical or all of them. This experiential learning continues throughout our lives. If we operate out of an unconscious belief or attitude about our world and the people in it, our expectations often fuel our imagination to generalize about the world at large, be this positive or negative.

Fear is often the negative emotions of our beliefs. By negative, I mean that we would choose to move away from rather than toward the stimulus that engages our emotions. If our knowledge base is that the people in the world are untrustworthy and dangerous then we might determine that we should avoid people in general or personal interaction because it is too painful. Herein lies the tension.

We may wish to be loved and cared for but we are afraid of anyone who could potentially hurt us; the ultimate double bind. That’s all well and good, but now what? The next step is healing.

What Lies Beneath Anxiety, (What is Fear)?

In the human condition, there appear to be some very basic drivers for our existence; Love, of both ourselves and others; Power, which I feel is really about self love; and Fear which is one of the most primal drivers of most living organisms on the planet.  The underlying principal of love and fear is either moving toward something or moving away from something.  Why is understanding fear important to us?  In human relations fear is not often recognized as a dynamic component of more obvious emotional symptoms. These emotions can have a huge impact upon how we live our lives, or conversely how we fail to live our lives.  What is this demon called fear?  Objectively fear is simply an emotional reaction to a stimulus often felt as pain or discomfort.  Our reaction to this discomfort is to move away from it.  The difficulty lies in how to deal with fears in particular circumstances and what we learn from it.  There is no doubt that we need fear; without fear we cannot protect ourselves from harmful outside influences.   As an example, if we have a parent who is abusive when they are under the influence of alcohol, we tend to avoid that parent when they are drunk.  We have learned to fear that parent when they are drunk.  In this case our fear protects us from harm.  The difficulty lies in how we translate what we have learned in one type circumstance to the rest of our lives.  If our fears remain unconscious, we may apply that fear to the world at large and we respond by distancing ourselves accordingly.    Our fears may be generalized, which may appear to be a distrust of the world, or specific to some type of event or person.  Some of the most basic fears are; fear of death, fear of abandonment, fear of dis-ease, and fear of loss of self.  The fear-driven learned behaviour of closing off others, angry outbursts, vindictiveness, neediness, isolation or other reactions may isolate us from what we truly want in our relationships, which is love understanding and caring.   As in any learning, it’s important to question the origin of the information and more so how we use that experiential learning, this is part and parcel of the counselling process.    If you are or know someone who is experiencing the symptoms or fears described, I strongly recommend seeking help from a counselling professional.    Next issue, what is the origin of fear?